Monday, February 27, 2012

Spice it up

When I sat down a few weeks ago with the designer to discuss my new kitchen, the very nice lady suggested we incorporate a roll out spice rack into the cabinets.  You know, the thin, neat looking, pull out cabinet that can be made look like cabinet trim.  When she made the suggestion, I laughed, how na├»ve of her.  My spice cabinet now is a full size, four shelves, packed to the gills in double or triple layers.  When I open it, I have to make sure that nothing falls on my head.  Surprisingly enough, I know my inventory and use everything, provided I can find it in the back rows.  I also must admit to being a spice hoarder.  I am forever afraid to run out of my favorites, such as Herbs de Provence or various chilies, so I stack up… just in case.  Judging by the amounts I have accumulated, I must be stacking up for nuclear winter…  I also love collecting spices from all over the world, whether from my own travels or from my friends, I have quite a few prized possessions.  From Japan, Morocco, Himalayas, China, Spain, everyone knows what to bring back…   This explains three different types of cardamom and sixteen types of chili powder.
As I am getting ready for kitchen demolition, I had to empty out my cupboards, I took this opportunity to clean and sort out all my spices.  Here are a few highlights:
La Boite A Epice Spice blends created by the master spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz are my new favorite obsession.  These are exquisitely chosen spices of best quality, highly though after by the most famous of chefs.  They do make a huge difference, one whiff and you are truly transported to your favorite origin.   

There is also my prized Himalayan collection of different salts and peppers brought to me by a colleague straight from the source

Anyone thinking that black pepper is all there is, should try these freshly ground.  Each is so different, floral, spicy, fragrant….  I am so glad I sacrificed my coffee mill to become the spice grinder and invested in the good mortar. 

Then there is salt.  Although recent studies have suggested that a human palate cannot detect different salt tastes.. salty is salty.. I am very partial to different salts for different things. 

There are pink Himalayan salts that I use as finishing salts for salads.  There are black salts (Himalayan and Hawaiian) that I am still trying to figure out where to use, as they change the color of dishes ( gray is usually not the most appetizing color).  There is a smoked salt that I love to enhance the flavor of anything smoked. 

There is a Flower salt that is so fragrant and light, it makes a perfect finishing salt for deserts. 

There is hugely coarse Sea Salt that is crunchy and perfect on roasted veggies or fish.  There are crunchy salt flakes, Sea Salt and Lemony salt, to use on fish, salads and anything where you want crunch.  This salt does not dissolve, so a light hand is better. 

Finally, there is my beloved Fler De Sel, which I use in deserts and sprinkled on pretty much anything.  Of course there is plain Kosher Salt, why mess with perfection.

All in all, after going through dozens and dozens of jars, I decided that I absolutely have to have them all, but if I was marooned on the deserted island I must have these two:

Herbs de Provence.  There are quite a few brands out there; I particularly like the ones that contain lavender.  This is France in a bottle, and can instantly transform any dish. 
As much as I love everything French, the one spice I cannot live without is Smoked Paprika, which comes from Spain.  Mild or Hot (or both), there is no other spice or method that can transform any meat or vegetable quite the same way.

I cannot wait to put all of my newly organized spices into the new kitchen and get cooking!


Vlad and Julie said...

Irka, I think you should build an extension just for the spices. I am sure Alex will appreciate :)))


Anonymous said...

Irka, you are truly a special person :) TB